According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), school buses are the safest vehicles on the road. Your child is much less likely to suffer injuries as a bus passenger than they are riding in a car, walking, or biking to school. Even so, four to six kids die in school bus crashes each year, and dozens of others suffer injuries. A school bus can happen for any number of reasons, but some common causes include:
- Driver error;
- Lack of seat belts and other restraints;
- Inclement weather;
- Defective buses; and
- Errors by other drivers.
You may be able to sue if your child is hurt in a school bus accident. However, because a public school system is a state government entity, it is immune from many types of lawsuits. Yours must meet very specific requirements to be viable.
The government protects its various agencies at the federal, state, and municipal levels by granting sovereign immunity from lawsuits. While this is a benefit to the government, it can hurt citizens when the negligence of the government or a government employee causes an accident and they suffer injuries as a result. If you are considering suing the school district for injuries that occurred at school or on a school bus, it is important to consult with a lawyer at Gacovino, Lake & Associates, P.C., as soon as possible. We can determine if you have a viable case and help you take the next steps in the legal process. Call 800-550-0000 for a free consultation.
What Is Sovereign Immunity and How Does It Affect My Case?
Sovereign immunity grants protection from lawsuits for certain government entities. Sovereign immunity typically applies to federal, state, and municipal government agencies. Its purpose is to protect government budgets—which draw funding from taxpayer dollars—from facing excessive lawsuits.
That means, for instance, if a police officer is chasing down a suspect and sideswipes your vehicle during the pursuit, you may not be able to sue the police department for your injuries or property damage.
The same can be true for a child who suffers injuries in a school bus crash. Assuming your child attends a public school, a government entity probably runs the buses. That makes the driver of the bus a government employee and the bus itself government property. Because the school district and all of its employees fall under the purview of the state and local government, sovereign immunity applies.
Are There Any Exceptions to the Sovereign Immunity Rule?
All 50 states have laws in place that conditionally waive a school district’s sovereign immunity for situations in which an employee’s negligence caused or contributed to a child’s injury.
However, you must follow very specific procedures to take advantage of this waiver. That is where our attorneys can help. The statute of limitations differs for cases against a government entity. In New York, for instance, you must file a Notice of Claim with the district within 90 days of the accident. This notice lets the district know the details of your claim ahead of time, including how you are alleging the accident happened, the nature of the liable party’s wrongful actions, the extent of your child’s injuries, and the amount of compensation you are demanding. You can only file a lawsuit if the district denies your claim or if 30 days pass with no response.
Every state’s rule is different, which is why it is important not to waste any time after the accident. Speak with one of our school bus accident lawyers as soon as possible. We can discuss your legal options and advise you of the best way to proceed in your case.
What If the Accident Was Another Driver’s Fault?
Another possible scenario is that your child’s suffered injuries in a bus accident, but neither the bus driver nor the bus itself played a role in the crash. In some cases, it was another driver who caused the accident.
Because the other driver was not a government employee, sovereign immunity does not protect them from a lawsuit. You can potentially file a claim against them and their insurance company for your damages.
We can investigate the details of the crash, identify all responsible parties, and gather the evidence we need to prove liability. Whether the fault lies with the school district, another driver, or a combination of both, we can help you fight for damages.
Call 800-550-0000 for a Free Consultation With a School Bus Accident Lawyer.
At Gacovino, Lake & Associates, P.C., our attorneys focus on personal injury law. Our goal is to help victims navigate the complex legal landscape to win the damages they deserve after a school bus accident. For a free consultation with one of our team members, call 800-550-0000 today.